Category: khmer empire

The ancient city of Koh Ker had a very brief spell as the capital and center of the Khmer Empire, between 928 and 944 CE. The capital was then moved back to Angkor Wat.

A new study has used ground-penetrating radar and manual excavation to uncover some of the hidden structures of the Koh Ker settlement, discovering a chute some seven kilometers long (4.3 miles), designed to ferry water from the Stung Rongea river to the city. But the chute has been calculated to be too small. This meant there were likely overflows and flooding, and the water would end up being wasted, without reaching where it was supposed to go.

In 944 CE after just 16 years in Koh Ker, King Jayavarman IV decided to move the capital back to its previous location in Angkor Wat. It was probably no coincidence that Angkor Wat’s water infrastructure actually worked.

That is the image of a lost city, found beneath the Cambodian jungle. Mahendraparvata, sometimes dubbed the ‘lost city of Cambodia’, was an early capital city of the Khmer Empire (800s – 1400s CE). Historians and archaeologists knew Mahendraparvata existed – somewhere. And a recently-released paper suggests that it has been found, based on the combination of scriptural evidence stating the capital was on a specific mountainous plateau, and airborne laser scanning (above) that found the remains of a city in that area.

Traditional ground-based archaeological work was conducted after the laser scanning identified the site. The city appears to date to the late 700s CE to early 800s CE, the right era for Mahendraparvata. It is a city of linear axes denoting wide boulevards. The streets are large, 60 to 80 meters (~200 feet) wide, and up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) long. Dams, reservoir walls and the enclosure walls of temples, neighborhoods and even the royal palace are built next to or alongside the embankments.

With thousands of buildings Mahendraparvata will take decades to fully rediscover. This was a large city, a capital city, built to impress even centuries later.

The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. It held more or less power in the region from the early 800s to the mid-1400s when its capital city of Angkor fell.

The first evidence by an academic of stoneware ceramic production was the documentation in 1888 by the French explorer Etienne Aymonier of an abandoned kiln site on Phnom Kulen.

Not much investigation into Angkor ceramics was made until the 1960s, however, when deforestation and road-building uncovered kiln mounds for ceramics in the fields of Buriram province in northern Thailand. Once the discovery became known, a new interest in the ceramics of Angkor was born. Since then, many more kilns have been found across the former empire.

Angkor ceramics were made either with grayish-white clay bearing green glaze or with dark-colored clay using brown glaze. Occasionally, when a potter was apparently feeling adventurous, a ceramic would be made with both grayish-white and dark clay, and glazed with both green and brown glaze. And of course there were many unglazed ceramics. Angkor ceramics, though just two colors of clay, had a variety of shapes. Rather beautiful shapes, too.

Of course I saved the bug-eyed elephant for last!